Unemployment is a pervasive issue in our nation today. Nearly every industry has had to reduce its workforce in the past few years. Putting Americans back to work is a hot political issue that has no obvious correct answer. A subset of the population that is rarely mentioned during unemployment talks are the developmentally disabled. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Annual Report (2013), unemployment amongst developmentally disabled adults is 82.2%. That translates to approximately 1.2 million developmentally disabled adults who are capable of working basic jobs. Since the recession, many eager job seekers have taken employment far below their qualifications. This leads to fewer employment opportunities for disabled individuals. Generally speaking, mentally challenged adults have difficulty finding employment. Without the ability to be independent and provide for themselves, many disabled adults end up in group homes without a purpose in their lives. This is a sad reality for individuals that are capable of providing for themselves. The only thing separating them from this is some extra assistance in the workplace.
The largest hurdle to creating jobs is the cost that those new employees will incur. Employers want to hire people that can work autonomously and reliably. Frequently, developmentally disabled workers require the assistance of a job coach. This assistance is required since disabled people may require personal training for even the most basic positions. Job coaches come at no expense to the employer; they are financed by the local regional centers by taking a small percentage of the employees’ wages. All in all, a disabled individual can expect to make roughly five dollars an hour working a minimum wage job. Once they become autonomous at the job duties, they are a regular employee of the business and are paid as such. This does not affect their social security benefits since they are permanently disabled. Combining these two sources of income provide these individuals with independence that they may never have had before. The main issue associated with job coaches is the time that is required for a disabled employee to go from being hired to being proficient at their work. It may take a disabled individual a few weeks to be self-sufficient at a basic task.
There are many advantages to the employer when they hire mentally challenged individuals. Solving this unemployment problem is slightly simpler than solving the general population’s unemployment problem. Several disabled people can occupy the same position since they may lack the ability to work long, demanding, in a job. In order for this challenge to become a reality, business owners will have to embrace this unorthodox workforce. Aside from the altruistic reason for hiring mentally handicapped individuals, there are practical advantages for the business owners. Currently, small businesses (less the $1 million in revenue and less than 30 employees) can use tax deductions of up to $10,000 if they employ disabled individuals. The true hurdle in making this challenge a reality is the blatant prejudice that people have towards disabled people. There is a precedent for hiring mentally challenged workers; many large companies employ many disabled people. Convincing small business owners and that mentally challenged people are capable of basic jobs is not unheard of, but it is difficult.
“Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12 June 2013. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.